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What You Really Need for a Baby

Updated on September 14, 2012

Most new parents are bombarded with advice from friends, family, social media and stores informing them what they need for their baby. Many items are convenience items that are not essentials yet many moms identify a few convenience items as something they feel they need for their baby that fits into their lifestyle. Many parents discover they register for many items they do not use. They hurry up and rush to buy all of what they believe to be the baby items they need only to realize they could have waited 6 or so months before purchasing. So what do you really need for your new baby? Read on to put your mind at ease and figure out which items are essential for you and which items are either not necessary or can wait until sometime after the baby is born.

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Carseat and Travel

The first step to bringing baby home is placing him or her in a carseat.

Infants are in infant carrier carseats in the beginning and can be in them for several months- based on the weight and length restrictions on your particular model. If you registered for the next carseat and do not have it yet, this can wait for at least a few months. Some models of the carrier carseat can hold an infant up until about 9-10 months!

It is important to ensure the base of the carseat is secured correctly. Some local fire departments or even stores such as Babies R Us have people available to install them for you.

It is easiest to have extra bases for additional cars you may use to transport your child.

You will need to read the directions to your carseat and understand how best to secure your baby in the carseat's restraints before putting the carrier in your car.

Carseat manufacturers offer a lot of customer support when it comes to following directions and using their carseats as safely as possible. It is a good idea to call them with any questions.

Traveling with a newborn:

It is wise to bring at least 4 hours worth of supplies for even a quick outing. Travel systems with a carseat and stroller can be good but you may want to try them out first in the store and make sure they are not too bulky or have for you. The Snap n' Go is a great quick stroller for the first several months. You will not need an actual stroller for some time.

Items you will need when traveling:

  • diaper bag or some sort of container for these items (a backpack or large tote could work)
  • bottles (if not breastfeeding)
  • bottle cooler bag or pre-mixed formula that is sealed for freshness
  • changing pad
  • double the diapers you believe you will need
  • ointments/powders you are currently using
  • a change in clothes
  • burp cloths
  • extra blanket
  • wipes- a larger pack is much better than the smaller travel ones with maybe 8 wipes in them. Some brands may their refillable wipes with a snap lid so that they can be used without a container. These travel well.


You will need to choose if you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. If you are you unsure, you will need to plan for both.

Burp cloths are needed more in the beginning for infants than later on. The best kind are the cloth diaper burp cloths. There are smaller prettier ones that will leave you less protected and are not as absorbent. You will want at least a pack or two (6-12) of burp cloths depending upon how often you do the laundry.


Breastfeeding is beneficial and can very hard in the first few weeks. It is wise to plan to only feed and care for your baby when awake and sleep when your baby is sleeping at first.

One of the great things about breastfeeding (besides helping your infant's digestive tract) is that you do not need much. Here are some items to consider:

  • nipple pads (to prevent leaks)
  • nipple cream
  • If you are rather modest or would like some coverage in the hospital, you may want to bring a nursing cover (a sash that covers you as you breastfeed).
  • Breastpump such as medela- if you are not sure what you would like or what you are going to do, you could rent one from the hospital. If you decide to pump, you will need bottles. There are also hand breastpumps that are great to leave in a diaper bag in case you skip a feeding and need relief.
  • Some women also use a nipple shield. This protects the nipple while still allowing you to breastfeed.

Breastfeeding is typically done on demand-- when your baby is showing signs of hunger. I would recommend reading a breastfeeding book, taking a breastfeeding class, or talking to your doctor about your options.


Not all babies take to all bottles. If you can, try not to commit to one type of bottle until you use one. It may be wise to buy a few different kinds just in case. I would advise you not to open larger boxes of bottles until you know for sure it is the brand your baby likes best so you can return it later.

Essential bottle items:

  • At least 4-5 bottles (depending upon how often you are willing to wash them)
  • A bottle brush with nipple brush
  • A place to dry the bottles and little bottle accessories
  • formula: Pediatricians will typically recommend starting babies on regular formula if there are no complications. If they appear to have any negative reactions, your pediatrician can guide you through trying other more sensitive formulas that may be best for your baby. Pediatricians will warn you that you should not start with the most sensitive formula unless you know for sure that is the only one your baby will need, as recommended by the doctor. These are not only more expensive, but if your baby is able to process and tolerate the regular formulas well, they are the best source of nutrition.
  • Follow what you learn in the hospital and what the pediatrician recommends- newborns typically feed every 2-3 hours and will start with very little formula.

Items you do not need although many people like:

  • A bottle warmer- bottles should not be too warm. Some babies even take them right out of the fridge. Many are happy with a room temperature bottle. Running a bottle under hot water or letting a bottle sit in a mug of boiling water (you can boil water in the microwave but bottles should never be heated directly in the microwave due to risk of burning from uneven heating).

Diaper Changing

If you made a decision to use cloth diapers, the earth thanks you! Find more information on cloth diaper use here.

It is most likely easiest for you to have a diaper pail, changing table, changing pad, and at least three changing pad covers. If you did not have these you could:

  • place soiled diapers in old grocery bags and put them outside in the trash
  • use a changing mat on the floor (the lula is my favorite. It is big, portable, and lasts up to toddler age).

Diapers: I would recommend getting a small box of newborn diapers and a small box of size 1 diapers. Babies jump to the next size pretty quickly. Just be prepared-- size 1 looks so big at first. You can tell your baby's diaper is too small when it leaks from the top routinely (remember there are somethings no diaper can hold!). You can tell your baby's diaper is too big when it leaks from the legs routinely. Before switching- make sure you are putting on the diaper correctly. The baby's bottom should be in the center, there should be an inner fold that remains folding in and the outer ruffle should be out. The outer ruffles can fold in causing the diaper to have spaces for leaks. For newborns, I would recommend either buying the same brand as the hospital (if there was no reaction) or finding a brand that is fragrance free and made for sensitive, newborn skin.

Wipes: Wipes are not recommended for newborns. In the beginning the hospital and pediatrician will most likely tell you use moisten paper towels with water. Once you move onto wipes, it is a good idea to find the most sensitive wipes.

Ointment/powder: Babies, especially newborns, need some sort of barrier to protect them from their soiled diaper and prevent diaper rash. Ointments seem to be best for newborns and recent information is cautioning parents about the use of powders due to the risk of inhalation when it becomes airborne. I would recommend vaseline or aquaphor for routine diaper changes and triple paste for diaper rash or when skin is red.


Most new parents rush and get a nursery done only to realize their little one will not be sleeping there for a bit.

Most new parents have the baby sleep in a bassinet, cosleeper, or pack n' play in their bedroom for at least the first few weeks. This gives you more rest. Babies feed and wake up often. It is easier to have them at arm's reach. Babies can wake up for a few reasons and parents quickly find a way to quickly go through process of elimination- comfort (too warm? too cold? position? need a pacifier?), hungry, wet diaper, needs to be burped, etc. Obviously if the baby continues to cry or cry even harder- you guessed the wrong one.

Essentials for sleep:

  • A place to put the baby down- bassinet, cosleeper (looks like a mini pack n' play which is great for smaller bedrooms) pack n' play or crib if this works for you.
  • A change of 3 sets of sheets/covers
  • receiving blanket or a much preferred swaddle-me blanket to take the guess work out of swaddling a newborn

Once your baby is in a crib (this can usually wait):

  • bumpers are not necessary for a while because they cannot roll or move.
  • Pediatricians may find it beneficial to place a coolmist humidifier in the baby's room.
  • The quickzip sheets are great and allow you to quickly change sheets without much fuss. It can be hard to get sheets around the mattress when it is in a crib!
  • Soothing music, white noise makers, nightlights, etc. can be used. Just keep in mind, whatever they get used to you may be stuck with for awhile.


Newborns cannot wear onesies and any other type of clothing that could fit too lightly over the stomach in the beginning. Once the umbilical cord site dries and falls off on its own, you will celebrate!

Newborns wear a hat, kimono shirt, receiving blanket and possibly booties in the hospital. Newborns' temperature fluctuate. You'll need to continually feel your baby's neck/back and feel if your baby is either too warm or too cold. Babies typically cry when too cold. Hats and socks tend to come off first. You may want to add pants if the climate is a bit colder.

Once the umbilical cord site is cleared, your newborn may wear onesies with the rest of the gear- receiving blanket with a hat, pants and/or booties when cold.

Babies have leaky diapers and spit up on their clothes. You may want to plan to change your baby at least 3-4 times per day.

Bathing & Grooming

In the very beginning, newborns can only have a sponge bath. The site of their umbilical cord cannot get wet until it completely dries and falls off on its own. This could be about 2 weeks.

Sponge bath: One of the easiest ways to give a newborn a sponge bath is on an absorbent sponge/pad on top of their changing table (maybe with something waterproof under just in case). You will need soft baby washcloths and lukewarm water in a bowl or bucket. A drop of baby wash added to the water is optional. If your newborn is on the sensitive side, you may want to stick with only fragrance free products such as Aquaphor. Newborns do not get very dirty. You will need to gently moisten their skin concentrating on their head, face, hands and diaper area. Do not overbath your newborn. Most pediatricians will recommend you bathe your baby every other day or less often. It is common for parents to only bath a newborn only twice a week- especially if the baby has dry skin.

Moisturizing: After bathing and in between bathing, it may be beneficial to moisturize. Many newborns are sensitive to products. It is best to stick with products recommended by your pediatricians and those that are fragrance free and made specifically for newborns.

Grooming Items:


Newborns cannot have much. See grooming items listed that could help with congestion.

The following items are good to have on hand in the beginning:

  • Infant Tylenol drops
  • Infant Gas drops
  • If colicky- Colic Calm (although the most expensive, this was the most effective. You may want to speak to your pediatrician first before purchasing.) It is a dark liquid but my baby seemed to like the taste and this product usually worked instantly.
  • Thermometer- This is the most nerve-wrecking thing for new parents. Some pediatricians may want to you to take a rectal temperature although most now will just ask you how you took it and adjust the temperature accordingly. For newborns, the head scanner thermometer, underarm, or thermometer pacifier may be the easiest. I recommend getting at least two different kinds. Keep a rectal thermometer on hand just in case you need to call your doctor and they request you take one.


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